Pastor's Blog
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August 30, 2017, 10:06 AM

The Armor of God

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:10-13a).

God does not propose to send His soldiers into battle without their battle equipment. As we noted last Sunday, Jesus said, “But stay . . . until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Likewise, as a wise spiritual counselor, Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians, “You must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power” (6:13, Phillips).

Evil has its days of power. When Satan cannot defeat us in one way, he attacks from half a dozen other directions. It is in those moments that we need the whole armor. And it is whole because it is God’s kind of armor. When we turn to God and ask for his supernatural covering, he fully supplies for our need. He supplies and clothes us with everything we need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Just consider some of the battle gear He invites us to put on as we face our enemy:

There is no spiritual defense more powerful than truth. When the Holy Spirit assures me that I have the facts on my side, I can withstand almost any assault.  And what a tremendous bulwark is righteousness! When under the leadership of the Spirit my attitude is right and my actions have been fair, I can boldly say to any enemy, “Do your worst. Take your best shot.” It may seem a strange contradiction that peace should be one of the Christian’s instruments of war. But it is. Many a victory has been won for God by refusing to fight when the issues were purely personal. This is God’s victory that comes to the mighty meek. Above all God gives me the shield of faith and the sword of Spirit, which is the word of God. When my faith in God is firm and when it is firmly planted in his Holy Word I do not fear what man or devil may do.

Here is the whole armor of God and putting it on is simply giving myself completely over to God. Having done this, my life is entirely filled and surrounded with Him. I am at no point exposed to danger when His all-powerful presence stands between me and my enemy. With Martin Luther my divinely defended spirit sings: A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing.

Let us join together in prayer: O Lord, now that you have renewed us and your mercies to us, restrain us from the sins into which we are most prone to fall and urge us on to the duties we are most averse to perform. Protect us from evil and equip us for faithful battle. Guide and govern us, O Lord, and let us be yours and only yours forever. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 23, 2017, 8:10 AM

The Double Cure

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded(James 4:7-8).

God has always planned well for the needs of His children. He has given beauty for the eyes, music for the ears, and love for the lonely. Should we not expect Him to provide equally well for the deep needs of our spirits?

Because sin is of two kinds, God has provided two works of grace. A person who has committed sins is guilty and stands condemned. They need to have their sins forgiven in order to become a child of God. When a person repents, and thus voluntarily turns away from their sins, God stands ready with the grace of forgiveness. He grants full pardon for all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed. A person who is a sinner must have their hands thus cleansed from wicked works.

But our text says more because a person needs more. Sins are acts which are contrary to the known will of God. The Bible teaches that sin is also a disposition in the heart which is opposed to God’s will. Even after a person’s sins have been forgiven and they have become a child of God, this sinful nature remains until the heart is cleansed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is the second work of grace that God has provided to deal with a person’s sins. Because a person is a sinner, they must have their hands cleansed; because they are double-minded they must have their hearts purified by faith.

The teaching of entire sanctification, or heart holiness, as a second work of grace has caused some to hesitate, and others to reject the truth. But why should we stumble over God’s method of giving himself to us? In Holiness, the Finished Foundation, Bishop J. Paul Taylor writes, “If two or more successive stages of treatment are required to secure physical health, the patient, even though impatient with the process, will submit to the superior knowledge of his physician concerning his needs… The trouble is not primarily an intellectual problem in arithmetic. It is not the addition of a second work of grace that troubles men, but the subtraction of the unholy element in the heart that involves the crucifixion of sinful self. The man who is determined to meet the divine requirements would submit to any number of crisis experiences that he might ‘stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.’ His heart and mind do not stagger at the word ‘second,’ but are gripped by the phrase ‘work of grace.’” The question, therefore, for us is will we wholeheartedly submit ourselves to God?

Let us join together in the prayer: Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure. – A. M. Toplady

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 16, 2017, 6:58 AM

Dead to Sin. Alive to God.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:11-13).

God’s Word tells us that we can be “dead to sin.” Paul uses this phrase a dozen times in the sixth chapter of Romans. What does the Bible mean by such expressions? What does it mean to be dead to sin? This much is clear, dead folks are no longer troubled by the problems of the living. No stronger term of separation can be used. The Apostle asks, “How can we that are dead to sin, live in it any longer?” The question carries its own obvious answer. He that is dead to sin no longer lives in sin.

Can we read the sixth chapter of Romans thoughtfully and conclude that sinning is consistent with a profession of Christian faith? Surely God means to say to us that salvation through Christ somehow takes an individual out of the sin business. God’s full work of grace in our lives is designed to do away with sin – all sin in the soul. This is the clear truth that God’s Word teaches. But we can be truly dead to sin only when the inner source of sin has been removed, when the old carnal self is dead indeed.

Sinfulness and Christlikeness are mutually exclusive. God’s plan is to free us from sin and to make us Christlike. The destruction of the carnal mind is a decisive step in that process. Matthew Henry comments, “Death makes a mighty change; such a change doth sanctification make in the soul, it cuts off all correspondence with sin.” Dr. A. M. Hills adds: “A man that is dead is uninfluenced and unaffected by the affairs of this life. He is insensible to sounds and tastes and pleasures… The voices of condemnation or praise do not reach him. And a Christian can be so delivered from the propensity to be charmed by the world that he is as one dead. The thing that once stirred within him at the approach of temptation has been ‘crucified’ and ‘destroyed,’ and he is dead to all but holiness and usefulness and God.” This is what is means to die out to self, to be dead to sin.

Does it seem like an impossible goal? Nothing is impossible for those who walk with God. The Bible presents it as the true Christian ideal within reach of every child of God. But how? The only way a person can become dead to sin is to become alive to God. It is the power of God alone that can do this in us. What does it mean to be alive to God? Simply this, as A. F. Harper reminds us, “that I continue responsive to every intimation of God’s will for me.”

Let us pray: Enable us, O Lord, to walk before you in holiness and righteousness to your praise and glory. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

Sanctify Them

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

On the eve of the Crucifixion, as Jesus entered into His sufferings, the deepest desire of the Savior was for the sanctification of His disciples.

In those last precious hours in the Upper Room before Gethsemane, He talked to them about many things: of humility, of the betrayer, of His going away, of their fruit bearing, and of the opposition to be faced. But throughout that hallowed evening the Lord kept returning to one topic over and over again. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “But I tell you the truth: It is for you good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Late in the evening the conversation was finished. There were no more words of instruction to be given. Our Lord ceased talking to men about God and began to talk to God about men.

Under the shadows of Gethsemane and of Calvary, in the hushed stillness of the night, while His drowsy inner circle slept nearby, Jesus poured out His heart’s desire to the Father. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:15-17). In the shadow of the cross, our Lord’s chief concern was that His disciples might be empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit. But His concern was not for them alone. It was also for you and me.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20). In that sacred hour the Son of God prayed for you and I that that we might be sanctified holy; He prayed, and prays still, for all who need this blessing of the Holy Spirit. Can we carelessly pass by the deepest concern of Him who died to save us from all sin? We who have had our sins forgiven need this blessing. We who love God must press on until our love is made perfect. Every man and woman who has turned their face toward God is called to remain in prayer until the very image of the holy Creator is renewed in them. As A. F. Harper declared, “We who have come to Christ at Calvary must continue with Him to Pentecost.” We need the powerful infilling of the Spirit of God.

Let us pray: O my Savior, I desire Your full will for my life more than anything else in this world. May Your prayer for the disciples be answered in me. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

August 2, 2017, 8:37 AM

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Dr. J. B. Chapman used to say that he got saved so that he could get sanctified wholly (A. F. Harper, Holiness and the High Country). His testimony was somewhat as follows, “As a young man I listened to holiness preaching. It sounded so good to me that I wanted to live that kind of life. I understood that I needed to be converted before I could become a candidate for sanctification. I therefore went to the altar to be saved, so that I could become a seeker for holiness.” Are not this preparation and this sequence the clear teaching of Peter’s message in Acts chapter 2? He had just come from the Upper Room, where he with others had been filled with the Holy Spirit. At the close of his first sermon, following this experience, Peter’s convicted listeners cried, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter knew the answer to that question. He knew that these men needed to find what he had found. He had followed Jesus for three years, but even these years of discipleship had not solved his own spiritual problems. To be clear, neither had seeing the risen Christ with his own eyes and speaking with Him on the shoreline. However, he had obeyed Jesus’ command to wait until the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:4-5). Now things were different! The infilling of the Spirit made all the difference.

How could Peter’s hearers experience this same radiant, lifechanging relationship with God? Peter could only point them to the same route he had taken. “You must repent – and as an expression of it, be baptized in the name of Jesus – that you may have your sins forgiven; and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He goes on to declare that this experience is not limited to a few select individuals. Indeed, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). The promise, therefore, includes us – some 2,000 years later.

The question that remains for us is the same one Paul later asked a group of believers in the city of Ephesus: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2). Their response was, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul then placed his hands on them, prayed for them, and they were filled with the power of God’s Holy Spirit. What is our response today? Consider it: Are you completely filled to all the fulness of God’s Holy Spirit? (Eph. 3:14-21). Does God have complete sway over every area of your life? If not, like the Ephesian church, are you willing to invite His coming in His fullness and pray until you pray through?

Let us pray: O God, we desire to have a lively sense of your love always possessing every ounce of our hearts, continually urging us to love you, obey you, and trust you fully. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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